500K Venezuelans Allowed Protected Status

Venezuelan migrants
Venezuelan migrants walk across the Rio Grande. | Image by David Peinado Romero/Shutterstock

The Biden administration has redesignated Venezuelan migrants — lawful or unlawful — as eligible for temporary legal status, thereby extending the period of protection for those who already had the designation and opening the door for others to apply.

In all, this will grant temporary legal status to almost half a million Venezuelans, allowing them to legally work in the U.S.

The announcement came this week via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which stated that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would be extended to all Venezuelans arriving in the U.S. prior to July 31, 2023, even if that arrival was unlawful.

“Temporary protected status provides individuals already present in the United States with protection from removal when the conditions in their home country prevent their safe return,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “That is the situation that Venezuelans who arrived here on or before July 31 of this year find themselves in.

“We are accordingly granting them the protection that the law provides. However, it is critical that Venezuelans understand that those who have arrived here after July 31, 2023, are not eligible for such protection, and instead will be removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”

The TPS designation also allows Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. to immediately apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) instead of waiting six months as required for asylum seekers. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is working to decrease the median processing time for EADs from 90 days to 30, according to a DHS Fact Sheet.

Democrats have called on the Biden administration to help unlawful migrants obtain legal employment as a way to address the crisis that their inrush has created in cities like New York and Chicago, per the Associated Press.

Earlier this year, New York Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sent a letter to President Biden asking that he “expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers.” The lawmakers argued that the move would relieve pressure on local services for the unlawful migrants and would be good for the general economy.

“A shortfall of immigrants due to our restrictive immigration policies worsens widespread labor shortages and hobbles the U.S. economy at a time when more than 10 million jobs remain unfilled. Cities and states across the country desperately need workers, and millions of people in this country deserve dignified labor and a chance at rebuilding their lives. … Without work, many are forced to seek services from government and non-government groups, straining resources in a completely preventable manner,” read the letter.

However, as noted in the DHS Fact Sheet, “Only Congress can change the law to allow asylum seekers to get work authorization sooner than six months after filing their claim. Right now, six months is the law.”

The Biden administration’s move to extend the TPS designation allows Venezuelan immigrants to side-step that waiting period.

Schumer and fellow New York Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries issued a statement thanking the Biden administration for the TPS decision, calling it “a welcome step forward, one that we advocated for along with many within the congressional delegation.”

“TPS will provide needed relief to New York’s systems straining to support newly-arrived immigrants. As a result of this decision, immigrants will be temporarily allowed to work, fill needed jobs, and support their families while awaiting an asylum determination,” they added.

However, upon learning about the new TPS policy, the New York City Council’s bipartisan Common-Sense Caucus criticized the move for “incentivizing more migrants to come here,” which would “exacerbate” the immigration crisis in the New York City, per the Washington Examiner.

Republicans and border hawks also denounced the TPS policy, which they said would simply attract more people trying to enter the country unlawfully, compounding the migration crisis.

“When Biden tells migrants ‘do not come to the U.S.’ and then creates a magnet like work permits, it undermines all deterrence,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said on X regarding the DHS concession.

Chad Wolf, the former acting head of DHS under President Trump, took to X and said he suspects that the policy change is a preemptive move because the Biden administration’s use of the parole program to grant unlawful migrants of certain nationalities amnesty will likely be invalidated by a federal court.

“DHS knows its parole program for Venezuelans [and other countries] is unlawful and will be ended by the courts soon. Should that occur, TPS allows them to remain … exempt from deportation. This is akin to the Biden Admin laundering the parole program through TPS,” Wolf posted.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Dallas Express that he believes the policy announcement was driven in part to preempt New York state from issuing its own work permits to asylum seekers, as Gov. Kathy Hochul had threatened to do earlier in September.

Krikorian said that if New York followed through with the work permit plan, it would be “blatantly illegal,” and the Biden administration would find itself under pressure to sue the Democrat-controlled state for undermining immigration law.

The immigration expert said it is important to remember that even though this TPS extension has a July cut-off date for eligibility, TPS also renewed in 2021 to cover immigrants who missed the prior cut-off date.

“If you’re a Venezuelan, you have every reason to expect that if you get in the U.S. and keep your head down, you’ll get TPS and a work permit when it next comes up for renewal,” Krikorian said.

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